Tag Archives: Gratitude

Today, I’m Thankful

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If the spirit moves me, I can almost always think of lots to complain about. There is the weather, often, whether it leans toward the “unseasonably warm,” the “damp and dreary” or the “too damn cold.” I have a dozen aches and pains and a hundred jobs not done. There are too many things I want or need, and too little money. Never enough time. There is the N key, and sometimes also the G and the K, on my keyboard, that stubbornly do not want to type when pressed. I am constantly having to go back over my writing, to fill in the missing letters. And work; if I want to complain, there’s always something going wrong at work. Grumbling is easy.

Being thankful is more difficult. It’s harder, often, to see the good…easy to just take it for granted. I’ve always been like this. There are few times in my life when I felt pure gratitude and appreciation in the present, for more than just a fleeting moment. I was always too busy analyzing the situation, or anticipating the future. Looking back, there are many, many days that make my heart swell with the poignancy, perfection and joy locked into those memories. I wish I’d had the good sense to appreciate them at the time.

My mother was always good at counting her blessings, and she encouraged all of her children to do the same. My sister Brenda is a master at “looking on the bright side.” I have to work at it, most of the time. Usually, it’s a struggle to find reasons for gratitude. I end up using tried and true platitudes of “my family,” “my friends” and “my good health.” Though I’m truly thankful for all three, it misses the point. Today was a notable exception. For whatever reason, today I feel thankful.

Every single time I got up in the night, I was thankful to return to the warmth of my bed. I felt genuinely grateful as I pulled the covers back over me. I was thankful for a good night’s sleep, and to wake up well-rested and ready for the day.

My dish soap, in a clear pump-style container, is now showing bands of yellow, green and gold, caused by the different types of detergent combined there. It makes me smile. It also makes me grateful for my brother-in-law, Dennis, who inspired me to combine things. He can’t stand, for instance, having two or three partial boxes of crackers or cereal taking up space. “Let’s just mix them together,” he’ll suggest, which leads to some unlikely combinations. We had some fun last summer, discussing this, and thinking of the worst mixtures: Count Chocula and Wheat Chex; Cap’n Crunch and Raisin BranShredded Wheat and granola.

Still, it made me think, and now I combine quite a few things. Half-bottles of lotion or shampoo are now poured together, always into the prettiest bottle. It cuts down on clutter, and makes for surprising new scents. As for the dish soap, I buy what’s on sale, or what appeals to me at the moment. I add it to the large container, which then provides a brand new color combination to appreciate, right there at my kitchen sink.

I was thankful that today was Sunday, which means a short day of work, and the next two days off. Work was not difficult, and, while there, I had good conversations with two different friends named John. The dogs gave me their usual enthusiastic greeting when I got home, and the three of us spent a couple hours outside. Because I had inadvertently left the heater on, I came inside to a nice, warm house. Last night, I prepared enough extra so that dinner will be easy to get on the table tonight.

I have some good books in progress. I’m reading The Abundant Bohemian (Live an Unconventional Life without Starving in the Process) by Joseph Downing. I feel like he’s saying exactly what I need to hear, to make me stop doubting the choices I have made, and appreciate what my choices have given me. I also picked up Men Explain Things to Me by Rebecca Solnit. It is powerful writing – honest and funny – that tackles large issues of gender and equality. I am continuing to savor a wonderful compilation of poetry that my friend Norm loaned me. Finally, The Moth, 50 true stories told by a variety of people on Public Radio, now in print, and given to me by my brother-in-law, Keith (who I am also grateful for).

Nothing out of the ordinary…just an average good day. The only thing remarkable about it is that I found myself thankful for it. That, alone, makes it an extraordinary day!

 

An Attitude of Gratitude

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An attitude of gratitude…isn’t that a great line?

I can hardly believe I came up with it on my own. I must’ve heard it somewhere.

Gratitude is not easy for me.

It’s not that I don’t have lots to be thankful for; I do! It’s just easier to look at the negative, to notice what I’m lacking rather than what I have. It feels like one of those ingrained traits, that has always been a part of my personality. Gratitude seems simpering, somehow…as if it comes from a place of weakness. Was I forced, perhaps, to say “Thank you” too often as a child? I don’t remember that. I do have memories of being told, “you should just be grateful…” but I think those suggestions were the result of my voiced dissatisfaction. I seem to have been a complainer all of my life!

It’s also one of those things I’ve been working on for most of my life.

I make lists; I try to keep a gratitude journal; I make a point of saying “thanks.”

There have been times, though, when it has been no work at all…when I looked around at my babies, my family, my surroundings, and felt like I could burst with the appreciation and thankfulness I was feeling.

This morning, in my warm house, with one dog sleeping in front of the stove, the other comfortable on the couch, Parker house rolls baking to accompany the dinner I’ll share with family later, with knowledge that my daughters are happy, that I have people that appreciate me, and family that I love dearly, with hot coffee beside me, sunshine and blue sky all around, and the ability to send my words out into the world…I am sincerely grateful.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Shadows of Gratitude

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My friend Kathy, who writes from her little house in the woods of Michigan’s upper peninsula, yesterday wrote about gratitude.

She was inspired by the writing of two others, and she was pretty inspirational herself.

If I could remember how to link to things, or if I had the stamina to figure it out, I’d link to all three.

It’s an important thing to remember,  to be thankful.

About twenty years ago, my mother was similarly inspired when she heard Sarah Ban Breathnach speak on the Oprah show about her book, Simple Abundance; a Daybook of Gratitude and Joy. She really took it to heart. For the rest of her life, Mom counted her blessings. She had always been one to “look at the bright side” so it was a subtle change, but important to her. Mom gave Breathnach’s book to me and several of my sisters that year for Christmas.  I remember, too, a short but heartfelt lecture about it.

“Just read it, Cindy, and sincerely give it a try! Just give it a chance, and see if your life doesn’t improve…”

I say things like that to my daughters when it seems they are struggling or unhappy. I suggest books or programs that might help to make sense of the chaos their lives seem – to me, from this distance – to be in. Even over the telephone, I can almost hear the sound of their eyes rolling, they do it with such vehemence!

A talk like that was rare from my mother, though, and I listened.

I read the book, as she requested, and started a “gratitude journal.” Not being one to throw away perfectly good paper, I have it still.  It looks like I was pretty faithful about writing down the things I was thankful for  from April 9, 1996 through May 10, 1996. There is one entry in December of that year, then a long interval until July 24, 2001…then February 3, 2002…then February 1, 2005, where the first entry is, “I’m grateful I didn’t let 3 entire years go by without keeping up with this.” Very funny. I kept up the daily practice, then, for another five days. That’s it. I’m not even a quarter of the way through the book!

What is even more startling than my lack of dedication to the task, is my pathetically negative attitude.

I have my moments.

“I am glad to have two beautiful, sweet daughters”

“…my friends and family”

“…my grandchildren”

These sentiments repeat frequently enough, as well as gratitude for a package, a letter, a good book, a sunny day, a fresh snow, a warm cat curled beside me, the arrival of Girl Scout cookies…

I’m grateful that I at least noted these good things because mostly my gratitude journal is shameful.

“I wasn’t totally depressed today”

“I’m so glad the tire didn’t go completely flat”

“My hair looked okay for a change.”

“I did not sit home alone feeling sorry for myself tonight”

“I’m glad I left the party before I got even more depressed”

“I am grateful to have made it through the day”

“I feel okay today”

“I’m glad the green paint doesn’t look so bad on the bed frame”

This is like the “Dark Side” of gratitude!

It’s no wonder I didn’t keep up with it…I was horrible at it!

Freshly inspired by Kathy’s enthusiasm, I think I’ll try again.

I still have plenty of pages to fill, after all!